Exploring Alternative Cheeses by Lisa Snow

lisa-snowAs more and more people are exploring healthier cheeses, demand for dairy-free options has dramatically increased.  People buy dairy-free cheese for very diverse reasons.  Those with true dairy allergies have a life and death cause to avoid cow’s milk cheeses.  Because dairy is an inflammatory food, people with arthritis are increasingly avoiding dairy.  Since cow’s milk cheeses are high in cholesterol, people who are already taking cholesterol-lowering medications are shying away from dairy products.  For those on a kosher diet or who are keeping a kosher home, meals with meat need to be dairy-free; cheeses made from cashews, almonds, or macadamia nuts can be a good alternative.  Vegans are typically concerned with the mistreatment of animals in the commercial dairy industry.  And those on Paleo diets know that cavemen didn’t raise cows!

For those with lactose intolerance, regular cheese can wreck their stomach.  During most of human history, our digestive systems didn’t need to produce the enzymes to break down lactose and other components of dairy.  So genetically, most people are born without the ability to digest dairy sugars.

Plus, many people who still eat cow’s milk cheese are trying dairy-free cheeses just because they want to try something new, and then discover how good they taste.

Cream Cheese OptionsKite-Hill-Cheese
Kite Hill cream cheese
  is made from almonds, and features a very short list of ingredients, which are all natural.  The texture is lovely, and many people find this brand tastes the most similar to dairy cream cheese of any on the market.

Treeline cream cheese  is made from cashews, and also features a very short list of ingredients.  The company also makes a line of aged cheeses that do not melt, but go beautifully on a fruit, cheese, and crackers plate.  All the Treeline products are now gluten-free.

Hard Cheese Options

Miyoko'sThe most hopeful development in the non-dairy cheese world is that traditional, artisan methods are finally being used.  Dairy cheese is aged the old-fashioned way, while most soy-based fake cheeses are made quickly, and only taste like “cheese” because of added flavorings.  But the brilliant Miyoko Schinner has changed all that.  She has created dairy-free cheeses from cashews that are made the traditional way: they are real cheese because they are aged like real cheese.  She is the author of 4 cookbooks including one that teaches how to make these amazing cheeses at home.  For people who don’t have time to make their own cheese, you can buy Miyoko’s Kitchen artisan cheeses  which can be shipped directly to your home.  Every flavor is gluten-free, soy-free, and cholesterol-free.  Instead of playing copycat with flavor names, she chose to use artistic, whimsical names like High Sierra Rustic Alpine, Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic, and Aged English Smoked Farmhouse.  Most flavors are meant to be eaten cold, but she does have one flavor that melts for pizza!

tree nut cheese 2Dr. Cow brand uses cashews, macadamia nuts, hemp seeds, and Brazil nuts to make their all-natural cheeses.  The nuts provide plenty of protein and healthy, unsaturated fat.  All flavors have zero cholesterol, no gluten, no soy, and no additives. While they do not melt, they’re a good start for a wine and cheese party!  Dr. Cow even tells you how their cheeses are made.

Now that you know just a few of the products available, a dairy-free diet will never again stop you from having a warm toasted bagel with cream cheese!  And next time you’re making a grilled cheese sandwich, baking a pizza, or having friends over for wine and cheese, have fun exploring all the delicious new cheeses on the market today.

 

Missed last month’s column? Read it now:

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A Surprising and Easy Way to Reduce Inflammatory Foods in Your Diet
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Protecting the Spine While Stretching Your Hamstrings – Part 2
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